Seriously, older Mac’s can still perform many, many useful tasks.
What constitutes an old Mac?
Well I suppose it all depends on your perspective doesn’t. Some people say that the PowerMac 6100/66, which was only introduced in January 1995, is slow and obsolete. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t agree with this. Others say that anything without out an ‘040 processor is old hat. Then again, others would say that anything older then a Mac II or LCII with their ‘020 processors are worthless.
Most will almost agree whole heartily that a Mac Plus or SE are now only fit for the tip. We won’t even mention most people thoughts about the original 512k and 128k Mac’s.
For a professional graphic designer, perhaps the PowerMac 6100/66 is too slow and they are better served by a new PowerMac 8500 or 9500.
But most of us who just use a computer for normal word processing, small databases, simple spreadsheets, the occasional (or maybe not so) game or basic data communications, virtually ANY of the Macintosh range, including the very first Mac – the 128k, could be suitable for the purpose.
“A case study”
When AUSOM held its’ annual Swap Meet in December, I spent much of the afternoon manning the entrance table. To fill the time, I asked various people on the way out what they bought or found of interest. One gentlemen, who was accompanied by his two teenage children, commented that they recently upgraded their “old” SE to a new PowerMac and they had noticed that people were selling SE’s inside for prices ranging from $75 up to $400. They enquired about what I thought they should sell their SE for. It had 4 megs of RAM (the maximum it can take), an internal 40meg drive, an external 80meg drive and an ImageWriter printer. Software include original disks of MacWrite, MacPaint, a couple of games and a ton of AUSOM PD Disks.
My answer was simple: Don’t Sell it!
I then asked what year where the children going into next year (1996). After recovering from their initial shock from my first statement, the children responded with Year 8 and Year 11, so I went on to explain that I understood that all VCE students were now required to hand in all assignments and CATS in typed form. Hand written reports were no longer acceptable and the Universities are the same.
The father acknowledged this fact and commented that this was the deciding factor in upgrading to the PowerMac, along with a StyleWriter.
I then asked what they had used the SE for previously. I got the answer I pretty much expected – The kids used it for typing school assignments and playing games. The father used occasionally to type the odd fax (which was then printed out on the ImageWriter and faxed using a normal fax machine) and to maintain a simple spreadsheet.
Well, if I wasn’t trying to be helpful and serious at the time I would have fallen of my seat laughing. They had just spent at least two and a half THOUSAND dollars, just so they could do the same stuff but on a different machine.
Sure they now had a colour screen but how many of us actually use colour in our letters. Perhaps the kids might in their school assignments, but remember the StyleWriter DOES NOT include colour, yet their original ImageWriter II did!!!
Sure the machine had a faster processor, but I bet that none of them were touch typists so for the majority of their nominated tasks this “speed increase” would be lost.
From what I understood the father’s spreadsheet was for calculating the interest due on a loan and was fairly simple. It was probably only calculated once a month after the payment had been made. I don’t think this was worth spending up to three grand.
The only type of application they used that would really benefit from this upgrade were their games and I’m sure that’s not what the parents had in mind when spending all that money.
One the positive side, the print outs would be vastly improved, they got a larger, faster hard drive, a 1.44meg floppy drive and a variety of “free, bundled” software like ClarisWorks and Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor. They also got a nice internal CD-ROM player and one of the bundled CD’s would have been an encyclopaedia of some kind.
I still don’t know if I would have spent this money. Anyhow they had and they were still trying to decide what to do with the SE.
As mentioned before, I suggested that they keep it. “Why?” do I hear you ask.
Simple, the SE was essentially still doing what it had always done, run a word processor to type assignments or faxes, play the occasional game, calculate a small spreadsheet.
There are also two children who will both require access to a computer for school work, yet if they sold the SE, there would only be a single computer and kids being kids they would no doubt both fight about whose turn it was to use it and argue that their assignment was more important and had to in tomorrow etc.
Yet, if they kept the SE, they would have two computers and then both children could work at the same time. I imagine that they would fight about which machine they would use but there is a simple solution to that – Install ClarisWorks on the SE so both machines had the same word processing software. If one of the children only needed to type the initial stages of an assignment up, they could use that and print a draft out for proof-reading on the ImageWriter. Later they could then take a copy of their data file over to the other machine, with its’ larger monitor, faster hard disk and better quality printer for the final work on the document – Page Layout, spell checking, and final printing. It could also be used to access the encyclopaedia CD-ROM if required.
I don’t know the setup at their home, but often families in this situation with multiple family members using the computer, set it up in a central location like a study or corner of the family room. Seeing as the SE is a single unit (if you don’t include the ImageWriter), there would be little difficulty in moving it around from one bedroom to another as required. Not many of the “modern” “desktop” computers are this “portable”.
[Author’s Note] When proof-reading this article, I realised that I had forgotten about the external Hard Drive. Not a problem. 40megs is more then enough to fit a basic System Folder and ClarisWorks on it and have some room for storage. They could keep the games etc on the external and only worry about that when needed (Also a good way for parents to ensure they aren’t playing games when they should be working, although I still found ways around this with my parents)
All in all, for this family the SE suddenly took on a new lease of life and will probably continue to do so for the next 4 or 5 years while the children are at school. Later in the year, I would be very interested to hear from them to see if this arrangement worked.
My own Machines
I have four computers at home;
There are also an external hard drive case with both a170 meg and a 80meg hard drive installed, a single speed CD ROM player and a Zip drive all currently connected to the SE/30.
All machines were purchased second hand, except the Duo.
As you can see none of these machines are current, top of the range machines. They weren’t when I bought them (the Duo was heavily discounted because the dealer hadn’t sold it before the “replacement” model arrived).
Yet, I am extremely productive with all of these machines.
The SE/30 currently acts as a file server on my mini network and also as my Comms Server (I run a UUCP feed which automatically dials into AUSOM twice a day). Seeing as the modem is connected to this connected to the SE/30, I also run FirstClass and my PPP connection through this machine.
I often run MicroSoft Word v5.1 on this machine, while the three UUCP applications are running in the background.
The Mac II is used for the majority of my desktoping – design of templates, forms etc. Up until recently, it has been my main workstation with its A4 monitor (I picked the Duo’s up at the swap meet). The only reason I’m not using it much at present is because I don’t have my network fully operational as I’m still upgrading it all to Ethernet and I haven’t connected the Mac II yet.
The Duo is used for “on the road” tasks and tends to go most places with me. For a while it housed my UUCP feed so I could read my news and mail on the train to work each morning.
The IIGS runs AppleWorks v5.1 twenty four hours a day and is still my main word processor and my only database (I’m yet to find one as flexible and powerful, while retaining it simple and easy to use interface).
Although, I am considering purchasing a new computer – the PowerMac 5200 been the favourite contender – I don’t think I can justify the expenditure at this time based on my current usage. The main reason I’m considering doing it is so that I get a colour Mac and a faster CD-ROM player. If I sit down and think about I can add both of these to my existing setup for less then $500, particularly if I pick up second hand ones. Besides, various people would shoot me if I added an other computer here, before purchasing a car and I’ll always remember a comment I made when I upgraded my IIe to the IIGS:
“I don’t know why I brought this. The IIe could do every thing the GS can”
My use of the IIe at the time was virtually the same as the GS today – running AppleWorks all day. I also used ProTERM to connect to the BBS. The IIe was fully decked out. It had 3 megs of RAM, a 10 meg hard drive (enormous for an Apple //), an 800k 3.5″ disk drive, a 400k 3.5″ disk drive, a combined serial card and clock card and a monochrome monitor. Yet, I took out a bank loan to purchase the GS and when I made the above comment I was having a few problems meeting my regular commitments, let alone worry about paying of the computer. I still believe that my good old //e could still perform 95% of my daily computer tasks today.
A copy of this article, with colour images, is available from my website, http://www.nicholaspyers.com.
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